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UK Higher Education International Unit: “Gone International: the value of mobility”

A new report released this month by the UK Higher Education International Unit’s Go International programme looked into which students take part in international mobility, where they go, and what outcomes of the international experience they enjoy. Drawing on data on the 2013/2014 graduating cohort of UK undergraduates, Gone International: the value of mobility is the IU’s second report comparing the academic and employment outcomes of mobile and non-mobile undergraduate students. The analysis surveyed 245 620 UK-domiciled first degree graduate, of whom 13 355 took part in mobility during their studies. This year, the data were broken down further to measure the impact of mobility on black and ethnic minority students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The report presents a positive picture of mobility outcomes, noting that mobile students achieve better university degree grades and employment outcomes. In the 2013/2014 class, 81% of mobile graduates received a First Class (1st) or Upper Second Class (2.1) degree, compared to 72% of their non-mobile peers earning the same honours. Similarly, only 5% of mobile graduates were unemployed six months after graduation, compared with 7% of non-mobile graduates. These differences in unemployment rates between mobile and non-mobile graduates are even larger for black (5.4 vs. 9.9%), Asian (4.4 vs. 9.5%) and disadvantaged (5.0 vs. 6.2%) graduates. Mobile graduates also enjoy higher average salaries, with an average of EUR 27 026 (GBP 21 349) compared to EUR 25 9680 (GBP 20 519) for non-mobile students.

However, the report revealed troubling disparities in international mobility participation. Only 1.6% of the most underprivileged graduates from families with long-term unemployed parents took part in international mobility, while 7.9% of graduates from higher managerial and professional family backgrounds had mobility experience, making affluent students five times more likely to go abroad during their studies as those from the lowest income brackets. According to the authors of the report, the under-representation of low income students among study abroad students is even more worrying in light of findings that these students’ prospects can improve the most as a result of international mobility.